By Laura MacInnis and Sam Youngman | Reuters – 3 hrs ago JACKSONVILLE, Fla./ROXBURY, Massachusetts (Reuters) -President Barack Obama sought a boost for his campaign in the crucial state of Florida on Thursday, amid new signs that voters are increasingly dissatisfied with his handling of the U.S. economy and questions about whether his attacks on Republican Mitt Romneyare resonating.Kicking off a two-day swing through this politically divided state, Obama tried to shore up his support with senior citizens and continued to cast Romney as a defender of the rich at the expense of the middle class.His trip came a few hours after two new polls suggested that even after several weeks in which his campaign has controlled the narrative of the presidential race, voters’ concerns about the economy are dragging down Obama’s support for the November 6 election.A CBS News/New York Times poll showed Romney with a slight edge nationwide, raising questions about how much voters are paying attention to Obama’s efforts to define Romney as an out-of-touch, wealthy elitist who refuses to release much information about his income and taxes.In another sign that Romney could be picking up steam, a Quinnipiac University poll showed Romney has closed a gap with Obama in Virginia, another battleground state. The race there is now tied at 44 percent apiece, the poll said.During his remarks in Jacksonville, Obama noted that he might be outspent by the Republicans in a campaign that will cost both sides hundreds of millions of dollars.”Florida, I’ve been outspent before, and I’ve been counted out before, but through every campaign, what has always given me hope is the American people. You have the ability to cut through all that nonsense,” he said.Romney, meanwhile, showed on Thursday that he had taken to heart other Republicans’ calls for him to be more aggressive in attacking Obama.Romney’s campaign has struggled to deal with a wave of attacks from Obama’s team that have included questions about whether Romney was hiding embarrassing details about his finances and had outsourced U.S. jobs to other countries while leading Bain Capital, the private equity firm Romney founded.Visiting a business in Roxbury, Mass., Romney cited reports that Obama’s Jobs Council has not met for six months, a development that the White House said was because Obama has „a lot on his plate.”Romney also continued to blast Obama over a comment the president made this week that Republicans said showed he is anti-business.”If you own a business, you didn’t build that,” Obama had said in Virginia, by which he meant that successful business owners have had the public’s help at some point in their lives — whether through public education, roads and or other government-funded projects that created an environment for businesses to bloom.”It wasn’t a gaffe,” Romney said at a trucking company just outside of Boston. „It was instead his ideology.”AN OPENING FOR ROMNEY?Romney’s team is hoping that Obama’s „you didn’t build that” line will give it some strategic footing after a week that began with some Republicans openly voicing their concerns that Romney was too passive in responding to Obama’s attacks.Obama aides said the president’s comments were taken out of context, but Romney advisers said they think they have found a message that is resonating more than the attacks by Obama’s campaign.”This really does crystallize the difference between the two candidates,” one adviser said. „And it taps into a lot of people’s anxieties about the president’s handling of the poor economy.”The CBS News/New York Times poll published on Thursday showed Romney’s key argument — that the president had failed in his stewardship of the economy — seemed to be resonating more with voters than the Obama team’s focus on Romney’s past.The poll showed 39 percent of respondents saying they approved of Obama’s economic leadership while 55 percent disapproved. That represented a worsening from April, when 44 percent approved of the president’s economic stewardship while 48 percent disapproved.The Obama campaign played down the significance of the findings and pointed to another element in the poll: that Americans believed Obama cared more about the middle class than Romney did.”We’ve always known this election would be close,” said Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki.It could be especially close in Florida, a state Obama won in 2008 but that traditionally swings its support between Democratic and Republican presidential candidates.Recent polls have shown Obama and Romney neck-and-neck in the state, which accounts for 29 electoral votes in the presidential election. A presidential candidate needs 270 state electoral votes to win.Obama retains strong support from Hispanic voters in Florida, but weakness in the housing market and concerns about the overall U.S. economy have clouded his broader prospects, while a large number of conservative-leaning retirees there have helped bolster Romney’s chances.(Writing by Steve Holland; Editing by David Lindsey and Cynthia Osterman)
Obama condems attack on Israeli tourists By RUTERS ROUGH CUT – NO REPORTER NARRATION President Barack Obama cited the „ruthless” suicide bus attack in Bulgaria and upheaval in Syria as reasons to fortify support for Israel, telling a re-election campaign event in Florida on Thursday (July 19) he stood by Israel’s side. Departing from his normal stump-speech themes of tax fairness, education and healthcare, the Democratic president described the Bulgaria airport bus bombing that killed five Israeli tourists as „barbaric” and a „ruthless terrorist attack.” „I want everybody here to know under my administration, we haven’t just preserved the unbreakable bond with Israel, we have strengthened it,” Obama told a mainly older audience in Florida, an electoral battleground state with many Jewish voters. Obama is on a two-day campaign tour in Florida, where he and Republican rival Mitt Romney are neck and neck in opinion polls before the Nov. 6 election. „This is a moment of great uncertainty in the Middle East, given what’s happening in Syria and given what’s happening in other places. Now is the time to make sure that we do everything we can to protect Israel’s security,” Obama told the retirement community in West Palm Beach. Israel has accused Iran of being behind the Bulgaria attack. Obama did not mention Tehran in his remarks or specify how the United States would proceed to boost support further for Israel. Romney, who is set to visit Israel later this month, has criticized Obama’s handling of Iran as weak and declared he would not allow it to possess a nuclear weapon, which Tehran denies building. Obama has also drawn criticism from Republicans in Congress and some in the Jewish American community for focusing attention on the Muslim world – for instance with a major speech in Cairo in 2009 – and for not having visited Israel as president.
New polls show glaring weaknesses for both Obama and Romney The latest polls shows that both presidential candidates suffer from major weaknesses. A sputtering economy dogs President Obama. Mitt Romney scores even lower than Mr. Obama on favorability.
By Linda Feldmann | Christian Science Monitor – 8 hrs ago The Obama-Romney horse race is still a dead heat, according to the latest national polls. No surprise there. But below that top line, the numbers tell a tale of two presidential candidates with glaring weaknesses.For President Obama, the sputtering economic recovery is his Achilles’ heel. Voters are increasingly discouraged by Mr. Obama’s handling of the economy, with only 39 percent of registered voters saying they approve, versus 55 percent who disapprove, according to the latest New York Times–CBS poll. That’s down from 44 percent approval, 48 percent disapproval in April.And that decline, in turn, is likely what’s sinking Obama’s job approval number, which went from 48 percent in April to 44 percent in mid-July.Play Gaffe Dodger: The presidential election gameThe most alarming number of all for Obama may be “favorability” – a measure of how voters feel overall about him, not his job performance or whether they would vote for him over Mitt Romney. In the head-to-head horse race, he’s at 46 percent to Mr. Romney’s 47 percent, a statistical tie. But on favorability, Obama is at 36 percent, the lowest number of his presidency for this poll, down from 42 percent in April.One would think such low public regard would spell doom for Obama. Conventional wisdom holds that favorability needs to be up around 50 percent if a candidate expects to win. But there is recent experience that shows otherwise.During President George W. Bush’s reelection campaign in 2004, “there was a lot of handwringing and armchair analysis over the fact that he was well under 50 percent,” says Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “But he squeaked it out.”And there’s plenty in the CBS-NYT poll for Romney to worry about. He scores even lower than Obama on favorability: 32 percent favorable to 36 percent unfavorable. Both of those numbers reflect an increase from April, when he was at 29 percent favorable and 34 percent unfavorable. In addition, 21 percent are undecided, and 10 percent say they haven’t heard enough.So the good news for Romney is that he has a big potential upside: Nearly a third of voters haven’t passed judgment on him, good or bad. That’s why we’re seeing a lot of his wife, Ann, and his five sons, who can add a personal dimension to a man who can be awkward in public. And that’s why Team Obama is working overtime trying to tear down Romney’s reputation over his career at Bain Capitaland his unwillingness to release more tax returns beyond the two already out. So far, it’s not clear that Obama is succeeding.The president also trails Romney in a head-to-head matchup on the most important issue, the economy. Some 49 percent say Romney would do a better job handling the economy and jobs, to 41 percent for Obama.Measurements of enthusiasm present a mixed picture. Fifty-two percent of Obama supporters favor him strongly, while just 29 percent of Romney supporters back him strongly. But Republicans are more excited about voting. About half of Republicans saying they’re more enthusiastic about voting than in past elections, while only 27 percent of Democrats report the same.Ultimately, given all the mixed messages from voters, it’s no wonder that the recent major public polls show the race so close. The Real Clear Politics average shows Obama up by 1.4 percentage points. While the CBS-New York Times poll shows Romney up by 1 point, Fox News has Obama up by 4. Rasmussen tracking has Romney up by 1, and Gallup tracking has Obama up by 2.Another clue into the trajectory of the race comes from battleground states, and one of the most important is Virginia. A new Quinnipiac poll of Virginia voters shows that Romney has erased Obama’s lead there, where they are now tied at 44 percent apiece. In March, Obama led Romney there 50-42.”One small edge that President Barack Obama has is likability,” says Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute in Hamden, Conn. “Voters have a slightly more favorable opinion of the president than they do Gov. Mitt Romney.” „But neither man is exactly Mr. Popularity,” he adds. “Romney has a negative 39 – 42 percent favorability, compared to Obama’s divided 46 – 48 percent. One of them is going to win the White House, but neither would get elected Prom King.”On the campaign trail with President Barack Obama
U.S. Navy helicopter crashes in Oman, fate of crew unknown Reuters – 12 hrs ago WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. Navy helicopter crashed in Oman on Thursday and the fate of its five crew members was unknown, the U.S. military said, even as it ruled out hostile activity.The helicopter, a MH-53E Sea Dragon, manufactured by United Technologies Corp’s Sikorsky Aircraft unit, crashed 58 miles southwest of Muscat while flying a heavy load in support of the Omani government.”The crash was not due to any sort of hostile activity and the status of the five crew members is still being determined,” said the statement from U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, adding the crash was under investigation.(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Jackie Frank)